No one ever said being an entrepreneur is easy. And if they did...well, they have never actually been one.
The psychological price of entrepreneurship can be challenging for individuals to bear. And although entrepreneurs are considered optimistic, running your own business is also a very stressful endeavor.
As a young man, tech investor, entrepreneur, and author, Tim Ferriss struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts as a student of Princeton. Life complications - trouble at school, relationship issues, wavering self-confidence, and poor job prospects - brought Ferriss to the end of his rope. Ferriss discussed this challenge on a now-famous TED Talk on the subject.
But Ferriss, like many other entrepreneurs, overcame the mental struggles to develop successful, flourishing careers.
So how did they do it? What tools are available to regain focus and bring back positivity when the challenge of entrepreneurship becomes overwhelming?
On his website, Ferriss chronicles his struggle and offers some tips to overcome mental stress. A few of his favorites are outlined below:
Address the Major Stressors
Ferriss recommends addressing the top 3-4 primary things that are making you uncomfortable. Typically, these will be the items that continually get moved from one task list to the next. Once you have this identified, ask yourself the following two questions:
- If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied?
- Will accomplishing this to-do make all the other's less important or easier to knock off?
If you answer yes to one of those questions, consider it an important task to get done, and set aside 2-3 hours to focus on ONE for today. Create the space for undistracted, focused, deep work.
From here, continue to set time aside each day for your most imperative, stressful tasks. You will begin to chip away at the items causing the most stress and make great productivity strides.
Make Time for Yourself
Feeling burdened by work? Working harder is not always the answer. In fact, the opposite might be true.
Ferriss has found that connections outside of work are essential to maintaining mental wellness. He recommends setting at least one dinner with friends per week to re-connect and re-ground to life outside of business. In the best-case scenario, get three or more people to attend the dinner, but two also suffice.
The second component is setting time for physical activity. At an absolute minimum, give yourself 20 minutes of physical exercise a day. More than 20 minutes is a plus and recommended. Another trick he uses is to schedule workout classes each week, paying upfront, so there is more reason to attend.
With some distance from the problem at hand, your mind will be more precise, and you'll have a fresh perspective to address the challenge.
A lousy diet could be making life harder than it should be. Focus on foods that prevent blood sugar swings. That means reducing refined carbohydrates. Focus on eating meats, fresh veggies, and healthy fats on a regular basis. Don't go too long between meals or your body and mind will crash.
When you're feeling terrible, there's no better way to raise your spirits than to transition into a state of gratitude. Here are two ways to change your outlook through this process.
- Think about all the reasons you're grateful. Write down your top 10.
- Call, email, or text someone and share a positive message with them, expressing gratitude in one-way or another.
By expressing gratitude, or directing your attention to support someone else, your problems become secondary. By helping others, you end up helping yourself. It's a win-win.
Realize You're Not Alone
When life as an entrepreneur becomes hard, you must realize you are not alone. Also, its imperative to understand that depression and anxiety is not a personal failure. Instead, know that what you are experiencing is part of the flow of life, and with a little work, you can quickly get back on track.
Ferriss isn't alone in his experience. In fact, mental health issues challenge many entrepreneurs over the course of a career. Luckily the bravado and psychological toughness that stigmatized the corporate culture of our past is declining. Today, it's common to hear business people discuss personal challenges such as depression and stress, and, although the mental difficulties of entrepreneurship remains an issue to address, the ability to talk openly is a huge step in the right direction.
When times get hard, be kind and gentle to yourself, take time to realign, and set manageable goals that can help relieve stress from large projects.